Chinese Five Spice Duck Legs
This is Jane Lovett's recipe from her marvellous Make It Easy cookbook, and very good it is too.
I have a curious reticence about eating duck and I absolutely cannot say why I worry so about ducks, rather than chickens or sweet gambolling lambs, but there is something particularly endearing about a waddling, gently quacking Jemima, especially if followed by a string of ducklings. However..
Ducks are fatty birds, which is an essential asset for long, slow cooking. The fat gently oozes out of the meat as it cooks, creating a sort of built in self-basting system, rendering the legs succulent and tender. In this scenario they have a mildly Chinese feel to them, which is delicious, but thankfully not so much so you feel you have to continue the Chinese theme with your vegetables, etc., which can be a step too far; just accompany them with fluffy mashed potato and something green, or do the full Chinese thing if you wish, of course.
2 duck legs
Half tsp. Chinese 5 spice powder
2 tbsps. chilli sauce (I like Lingham's)
2 tbsps. dark soy sauce (low salt)
2 tbsps. dry or medium sherry
1 tbsp. honey
1 dsp. ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 star anise
Trim away any excess skin and pat the legs dry with kitchen paper
Using the tip of a sharp knife, prick the skin all over, especially the thicker, fattier parts
Rub the 5 spice powder all over the legs, particularly into the skin
Now put the legs skin side down into a cold, un-oiled frying pan or casserole and brown both sides of the legs, particularly the skin, over a high heat. Set the legs aside for a moment
Pour off most of the fat from the pan, then add the water. Using a wooden spoon, release any flavourful crusty bits which have caught on the pan.
Add all the remaining ingredients, give everything a stir and return the legs to the pan, skin side upwards. The skin should be exposed, rather than submerged in the liquid.
Bring the sauce up to simmering, cover with a lid, cook in the oven for an hour then remove the lid, stir in a splash or water if the sauce has significantly reduced and cook uncovered for a further 45 minutes.
Lift out the duck legs and keep them warm
The sauce will now be very concentrated and crusty. Skim off any excess fat and then add a little boiling water to the pan and vigorously scrape and stir to incorporate all those gloriously flavourful crusty and solid bits.
Don't worry if the skin doesn't become super-crispy, it will be delicious and far from soggy.
There will not be a huge amount of sauce, but it will be flavourful and the duck legs will be succulent.
Cook ahead, the duck legs re-heat well.